Summer has always been a special time for Envoys. Our first program, focusing on environmental conservation and economics, began with online preparatory courses in June of 2012, followed by a travel experience in August of that year. Since then, summertime has always meant a mixture of program operations, passion-projects, professional development, and explorations of the world
The summer of 2020 was, of course, uniquely challenging. It is fair to say that the past few months represented the most difficult time in our professional and personal lives. Like educators around the world, we found ourselves forced to become members of a traveling caravan, moving slowly through a vast desert. Beauty and danger became everyday occurrences, while shifting sands made change the only true constant.
In this new environment, learning to utilize unfamiliar resources, discarding suddenly-obsolete practices, and maintaining a trusted community of tested guides and like-minded travelers all became key for survival. Most dangerously, tempting mirages appeared in the distance, promising a brief hibernation followed by a return to ‘the way things used to be’. However, the harsh desert always returned, exposing which elements of the past were actually essential and enduring.
As summer began, we embraced these new challenges and collaborated with Fernando M. Reimers to co-host the 2020 Think Tank on Global Education. Convening over 200 innovative educators and students, we rapidly designed and iterated new ways to meet the objectives of global education. We created a library of virtual teaching resources, including a range of webinars with esteemed experts on issues of global significance. Guided by informed perspectives from experts, Envoys facilitators offered possible applications and considerations for our network of global educators. We also developed a range of “Close To Home” options within driving distance of our partner schools in the US and Canada which allowed for the study of topics central to global competency like immigration, environmentalism, social equity, and multiculturalism.
During July and August, we drew on our experience with online coursework to operate eighteen cohorts of virtual programming, ranging from full-day camp-at-home sessions to thematic investigations on indigenous ecological knowledge and the history of sugar and slavery.
As we engaged with hundreds of students across all programs, we saw the vital need for programming that develops meaningful connections and bridges differences. The work of the future will be done by small groups of distributed individuals using technology to bridge geographic, temporal, and cultural boundaries, and that work must begin now.
To that end, one highlight of the summer’s programs proved to be our collaborative initiative with the GEBG that brought together over 150 students and educators from 18 schools in the United States and Morocco. The result was a structured collaboration series investigating and taking action on selected Sustainable Development Goals. In the midst of a pandemic, these students took on the challenge of creating meaningful relationships and finding a focus on global issues, providing inspiration and hope for us all.
A key benefit of the virtual space proved to be the increased modalities for documentation of learning. We have always known the importance of making learning visible for improving the practice of teaching. By observing, recording, interpreting, and sharing the processes and products of learning through a variety of media, we seek to deepen and extend our impact.
Like any organization, Envoys is made up of individuals with distinct personalities and passions, with a community spanning across twenty-eight countries. Our strength lies in our diversity of skills and perspectives, held together by the common belief that making the world a bit more intelligible and connected is a worthwhile endeavor. As we navigated the desert together during the summer, our community responded to the challenges with empathy, understanding, and respect.
For Envoys, global education has always been about what you do, not where you go. We recognize that educators around the world are embarking on an uncertain transition into the realities of teaching and learning in a pandemic-aware society. As ‘temporary challenges’ turn into constants for future semesters, an inflection point is rapidly emerging for global education, one where a blend of learning modalities must be utilized to develop the competencies that matter for the future.
Envoys is uniquely positioned to support this transition, and, as we move into the autumn and we remain dedicated to ensuring that global education at our partner schools not only survives, but thrives.